Authors' Rights and the Market

An Article by Filmmaker Sylvio Back

Sylvio Back is a renowned Brazilian filmmaker and writer. He has directed more than 20 films over a 50-year career and has written poetry, essays and scripts for several of his films. With more than 70 national and international honours to his name, Sylvio Back is one of the most highly awarded filmmakers in Brazil. His article follows in full:
Further to the editorial on the matter in O GLOBO newspaper on 23rd April (“Internet cannot ignore authors’ rights”), and in my capacity as a film-maker, I want to highlight in particular the last sentence of this text, which goes right to the heart of the matter, condemning this obdurate medium of Internet for its infringement of the sacred (there is no better word) rights of authors – whether they are directors, musicians or scriptwriters. Yes, the rights of those who create and sign what Internet sweeps up like a terrible tsunami, with impunity.   We film-makers, writers and directors of soap operas, mini-series and documentaries form a working community of hundreds of creative artists, the largest such community in Latin America, with a range of consumers numbering some 150 million cinemagoers and television viewers who see our work day in and day out. Inalienable and irrevocable under the law, authors’ rights are indeed a market in the noblest sense. One would not exist without the other.   Hence the growing awareness, both moral and material, that such prevalence is giving rise to a fierce defence of directors’ rights, with a range of demands rapidly becoming aired in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The reshaping of the predatory nature of the Internet by peaceful means based on solidarity is being called for by emerging collective societies headed by the authors of the works themselves. Who better to do so!   Faced by voracious and insatiable Internet activity, bodies specialising in audio-visual, music, theatre and multi-repertory rights – such as CISAC (Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Auteurs et Compositeurs), founded in 1926 in France and covering more than 120 countries, and its audiovisual arm, Writers & Directors Worldwide; or ADAL (Alliance of Latin American Audiovisual Directors), focused on cooperation and encouraging the setting up of collective societies on the continent – are mobilising to transform the Internet, an authentic ogre of globalisation, into an invaluable partner that will survive as a channel with a mass market calling.   There is a need to transform the Internet from an awesome technology that gratuitously and aggressively cannibalises film and television around the world into a player with a civilising role acting as a means of communication between author, intermediary and consumer. In practice, this should take place on an equitable basis, but currently only Internet is making money widely and unrestrictedly, while we, who are primarily responsible for the works, are harmed and ignored. The public itself is often unaware of the brutality of this sordid equation.   There is no audiovisual product without investment, cost and risk –abandoned, launched and let loose in the ether without any pecuniary or even moral commitment. As well as the producer, distributor and exhibitor, there are the writers, actors, directors, composers, editors or their equivalents for the various platforms, to be considered. The authors’ rights they are due transcend both place and time, and in the final analysis their absence represents an attack on their very own inalienable human rights.   These are material rights built on immaterial assets harmonising talent, expertise and culture, an asset with an author and proceeds that should be received for their physical realisation and public communication, and in reruns to come in future. Whether we are film-makers, musicians or scriptwriters, this creation is our only asset, as the images and frames, texts and staves are a daily part of us like a second skin. Our survival, dignified and virtuous depends on them. As does the vitality, range and renewal of a country’s culture and art.   By riding roughshod over authors’ rights (in this instance those of the director) in relation to almost all the content giving them substance by means of billions of accesses, and as the existence and optimisation of Internet are irreversible, being as it is at the core of the market and the audiovisual market itself, mechanisms must be found that remunerate in a fair and irreversible manner both the players involved – so that tomorrow, in a situation as grave as it is as now, we do not continue our voluntary servitude of clouds that are ever more ominous.   - Sylvio Back

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